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The Art of African Exploration

In the town of Ujiji in what is now Tanzania, Henry Morton Stanley, sent by a New York newspaper to track down the missing Dr. David Livingstone, finally found the man on this day, November 10, in 1871. Many had believed the ailing missionary and explorer to be dead. 

Their meeting has become legendary – even in its day it was the focus of media attention.  African exploration was a hot topic in the Victorian era in both the U.S. and Britain, capitivating the public’s imagination with tales of adventure and discovery and paving the way for the West’s colonialist claims on the continent. 

In a forthcoming SI Libraries exhibition, set to open December 9th at the National Museum of Natural History, African exploration is examined using an array of visual materials that emerged from that critical and complex time.  All but a few of the items on display come from the Russell E. Train Africana Collection (kept in the Cullman Library), a collection rich in illustrated and original materials.  Included in the exhibit are collectibles and ephemera, lantern slides (like the one shown above), early guide books, scientific illustrations, travel narratives, and actual explorer’s sketches and journals, spanning from 18th century accounts of voyages to original field sketches from the early 1900s. 

We hope you’ll come out next month to see some of these uncommon and intriguing items.


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